I first met Ace, the Toronto Blue Jays’ beloved mascot, in April, at The Only, a pub on the Danforth in Toronto’s east end, after a Wednesday night game against Tampa Bay, a 12-2 Devil Rays victory. He was wasted when I found him, seated alone at the bar; I’ll never forget it. After I introduced myself as a Blue Jays supporter who’d had a few pints of fine Canadian beer and wanted to say hello, Ace didn’t even look at me. Staring straight ahead, he took another shot of Jameson, and said:
Jesus Christ. I figured nobody would recognize me out here, out fuckin’ east. Can’t a man have a goddamned drink in peace?
It was funny because he was wearing his mascot outfit. He was Ace. He was dressed as a giant blue bird. And, I soon figured out, he needed someone to talk to. We drank until the early morning. That night, a tortured Ace let go of all that was weighing heavily on his feathered shoulders. Off the record, of course. Until now.
I kept in touch with Ace over the course of the season, and today, finally, he’s ready to to share his story. Representing NotGraphs’ award-winning Investigative Reporting Investigation Team, below is my conversation with Ace, who is so much more than a mascot.
Navin: Thanks for doing this, Ace. You know I think you’re very brave.
Ace: Thanks for having me, Nav. You don’t mind if I smoke, do you?
Navin: Of course not. You’ve got one for me too, right?
Ace: Sure. And thanks. And I just want to say, you know, before you ask me anything, that people out there need to remember that while we mascots are always smiling, sometimes we’re not, you know, on the inside.
Navin: I feel you, Ace. I really do. I think you’re going to feel better about yourself after this interview. And I think we might as well get to the point here: That boy, young Junior, pictured above with you on the field at the Rogers Centre, who made his debut in Toronto last season, he’s not your brother, is he, as the Blue Jays led us to believe.
Ace: No, he’s not. Junior is my eight-year-old son.
Navin: Tell us about Diamond, Ace.
Ace: Diamond wasn’t just my girlfriend, as the Blue Jays would have you believe. Those are more lies. She was my wife. She’s Junior’s mother. We were married in the spring of 2003. Small ceremony, on a beach in Mexico; Mayan Riviera, man. Diamond always wanted a destination wedding. It was great. J.P. Ricciardi, Vernon Wells, and Carlos Delgado were there. One of the best days of my life.
Navin: When did you meet Diamond?
Ace: In 2001, when the Blue Jays hired her. They wanted to give me a “girlfriend.” She could appeal to the better half of baseball fans. We hit it off. From day one. Don’t let the goddamned outfit fool you: I’ve got game. But the Blue Jays weren’t happy about it. She was to be my girlfriend on paper, only. It was a bit awkward, of course, because, you know, we had to work together, but we didn’t flaunt it. We didn’t flirt, or touch each other, or kiss at work. Never. It was professional. We were professionals.
Navin: Diamond left the team after the 2004 season. What happened?
Ace: It was a combination of things. We didn’t tell the Blue Jays about the wedding. Only J.P., Vernon, and Carlos knew. The brass found out. To this day I still don’t know how, but they did. And they were pissed. Paul Godfrey, president and CEO of the club at the time, ripped me a new one. I hate that bastard. They threatened to fire Diamond, on the spot, before the 2004 season. That’s when we told them that Diamond was pregnant. And she was. And I needed her to work. We needed the double income. I mean, have you seen the bloody real estate prices in this town? It’s absurd. Borderline criminal. I’m just a man, one of the 99%, and I’d stretched myself thin, bought one of those brand-new two-bedroom condos in downtown Toronto. So the Blue Jays agreed to keep things quiet. Diamond would leave after the 2004 season, and that was that. She wanted to be a stay-at-home mom, anyway.
Navin: Tell us about the drugs, Ace.
Ace takes a long haul on his cigarette, and crushes what remains of it in an ashtray. He immediately lights another one.
Ace: Heroin, man. Diamond got hooked on heroin. After Junior was born. It ruined her. Almost killed her. Killed us. We were divorced on December 23, 2008. Worst Christmas of my life.
Navin: I’m sorry, Ace.
Ace: Thanks, brother. We’re still very good friends. She’s the mother of my child. I’ll always have her back.
Navin: Where’s Diamond now?
Ace: Seattle. That’s where she eventually ended up. She was in Manhattan for a little while. She always talked about living in New York. She’s been clean for two years.
Navin: How’s Junior?
Ace: It was rough for Junior at first. He misses his mom. All the time. Who wouldn’t? But he’s a resilient little bugger. And I’d like to come out and say how thankful I am to Paul Beeston and Alex Anthopoulos for letting Junior get a taste of my life last year; for letting him get involved with Jr. Jays Saturdays, and stuff. I understood why they had to say Junior was my brother. It’s all the politics, man, me a single-father mascot, Diamond a relapsing drug addict. But Junior’s got a good head on his shoulders. He’s a good kid. Smart, too. My parents were big, huge, actually, in making sure he wouldn’t be effected by all the drama around him. And I’d be remiss not to publicly give Youppi! and Mr. Met some love. Over the years, they’ve really been there for me. I’ve been able to show Junior the sights and sounds of Montreal, and New York City. And he loves those guys, too. He’s always asking when Uncle Youppi! or Uncle Met are coming to town. Met’s coming up once the season ends, actually.
Navin: And how involved is Diamond in Junior’s life?
Ace: She’s been better since she got clean. She comes out here three times a year, and Junior goes out west two or three times a year. Junior knows she’s got demons. But we’re a family. Diamond will always be a part of my life, and I want her to be happy. But Junior comes first. Kids always come first. As any parent would attest to.
Navin: I have no idea. I don’t have kids. Not that I know of, at least. To be honest, I don’t really like kids. I can’t see why anyone in their right mind would have one. I mean, what a waste of money. And time. Time, more than anything. Time is money.
Ace: Are you about through?
Navin: Yeah, sorry. I’m sure Junior’s lovely. What’s next for you, Ace?
Ace: I’ll be honest, I’m looking forward to the offseason. It’s been a trying year. Way too many injuries. Life isn’t fair, man. But my goal’s the same as this team’s: I want to be in the postseason. I want to pump up a playoff crowd. October, man. I want Junior to see what the SkyDome can be like when there’s 50,000 motherfuckers inside, screaming their heads off. I want Junior to see what this place was once like. We did it. We have to do it again.
Navin: Preach on, brother.
Image credit: Sharkboy.ca.